EXCLUSIVE: Harvey Weinstein has some choice words for the whiners who used the New York Post and the Daily News in recent days to complain about Jennifer Hudson‘s appearance on tonight’s Tony Awards broadcast. Unfortunately, he didn’t use any of them when he called me. Instead, he was downright diplomatic. “We are passionate about being involved on Broadway and being a part of tonight,” he said.
On the other hand, he was also passionate in his defense of Hudson’s appearance, responding to the anonymous assertions that he had “muscled” his way onto the CBS telecast to promote Finding Neverland, the musical he has been developing for Broadway next spring and in which Hudson will not appear. One story had him calling CBS chief Les Moonves and demanding a slot on the Hugh Jackman-hosted show. Another quoted Broadway sources complaining that the appearance of a star on the Tonys who isn’t connected to a show is “unprecedented.” Which is, of course, a lotta Tony baloney.
“I never called Les, and he never called me,” Weinstein said. Tony broadcast co-producer Ricky Kirshner attended a recent workshop of the show with music stars Alicia Keyes and Taylor Swift present. Weinstein says that the idea of a star doing a number from the show on the Tonys came out of that performance. Hudson, you may recall, played one of Broadway’s ultimate diva roles in the film adaptation of Dreamgirls. On the telecast tonight, she’ll be introduced by Tina Fey, who some viewers will no doubt recognize despite the fact that she is neither a CBS nor a Broadway star.
As for Hudson’s appearance on the telecast being “unprecedented,” it took me about a tenth of a second to find Mary J Blige’s performance of “What I Did For Love” from A Chorus Line on the 2004 telecast hosted by — well, that’d be Hugh Jackman. I forget which Broadway show Blige starred in that year.
As it happens, Hudson will be part of a concept album to be released shortly before the show comes to Broadway, Weinstein said; Keyes and Swift are also likely to be involved — and neither of them will be on Broadway any time soon either. (After a troubled UK debut, a revised version of Finding Neverland will open in shortly at the American Rep in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The director is Diane Paulus, whose Pippin revival is still running. Weinstein says he hopes the show will move to Times Square next spring.)
“When people make these kinds of assertions,” Weinstein said, “they’re the ones making sure stars won’t appear on Broadway.” Harvey has a stake in tonight’ Best Play nominee All The Way, and was a backer of the undeserved flop Big Fish. Neverland, however is the first show he’s been creatively involved with from the beginning. “We’re taking a front-row seat,” he said.
The Tonys begin at 8 p.m. New York time, and I’ll be live-blogging the ceremony right here.